I am looking for stranger particle-like things, like the Japanese wa particle, or determiners like the. So wondering if there are any cases of pluralizing or changing to past/future tense that is not an affix of some kind, and also is not just an expression made out of words like "... in the past". So basically instead of having "The papers are new" or "I walked to the store", it would be more like "The paper PLURAL are new" or "I walk PAST to the store". Those caps tokens would be basically modifiers of some kind, that are separate from the other words (they are standalone instead of affixes). This could also work for gender perhaps, so instead of "He walked by" it would be "They MAN walked by". Wondering if this sort of thing appears in any language not just English.

  • That doesn't count because it's still attached to the word.
    – Lance
    Oct 20, 2018 at 10:59
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    Whether there's a space or not is just orthographic convention. Languages like Vietnamese separate every syllable with a space, even for two syllable words!
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 20, 2018 at 15:29
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    @curiousdannii I know possessive 's is a clitic, but why do you say plural s is?
    – Draconis
    Oct 20, 2018 at 17:08
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    Malay tenses, what there is of them, are all separate auxiliaries; this is true in many other Indonesian languages.
    – jlawler
    Oct 20, 2018 at 17:26
  • English (again): "I walk to the store"/"I will walk to the store"/"I did walk to the store". Oct 20, 2018 at 17:32

2 Answers 2


English future tense is a separate word, as in "he will be here". English only distinguishes past/non-past with morphology; all other TAM distinctions use auxiliaries.

Latin also lacks certain tenses in its morphology, and uses periphrasis (sequences of multiple words) to fill in the gaps. In these cases, the tense distinctions are marked with auxiliaries: locūtus sum "I spoke", locūtus eram "I had spoken", locūtus erō "I will be speaking".

In general, using auxiliaries to express tense distinctions isn't rare—you see it in many European languages, but also in e.g. Bantu.

For plurals, look at Mandarin. What exactly counts as a "word" in Mandarin (and, honestly, in general) is up for debate, but their plural marker 们 men is often considered separate. For example 我 "me" → 我们 wǒ men "us", 朋友 péng you "friend" → 朋友们 péng you mén "friends". Mandarin in general doesn't use pluralization much—men is only usable with a certain class of words, and can always be left off if you prefer.



  • tawo n man
  • pl mga tawo (mga + tawo ) or katawhan (ka- + tawo + -han)
  • 3
    Can you add glosses, so that we can easily read off what the Cebuano words mean? Oct 23, 2018 at 11:46

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